Wednesday, 21 October 2015

APS Upset Recovery training! Cue Extra 300!

After a few days off recovering from PT4, a few of us went to Gateway Airport (uh oh, my favourite….) to complete the upset recovery module of the course. This was a part I was really excited about; I've always wanted to have a play with an Extra300! I felt pretty confident going into it having experienced aerobatics before with the cadets.

We completed the upset recovery training with an external company called APS and spent the first morning in ground school, mostly watching videos, studying a bit of PoF and learning about their ‘PUSH,ROLL, POWER, STABILISE’ technique for unusual attitude recovery. There were 6 of us in total on the course, two guys were from the American air force and were not with the academy, the rest were members of my course. The lessons were presented by a real life astronaut, which was so cool

In the afternoon we met with our instructors (they were all ex-military fast jet pilots who did this for fun!) and went for the first flight. It was amazing! Although we took off from Gateway, it felt very familiar flying around the same desert and same practice area that we've been used to this whole time. We just went a little bit (a lot) higher and had a bit more power than the Archer gave us. The cockpit was very simplistic in the front seat (the instructor is sat behind in tandem), I had only an artificial horizon indicator and an airspeed indicator, as well as a control stick, not yoke, and throttle. We couldn't take off or land (tail dragger and I'm not about to volunteer to take off and talk to Gateway tower....) but were given control after the instructor upset the aircraft and flew to and from the practice area to get a feel of it. 

During the first lesson I got to have a nice feel of the aircraft and do a few stall recoveries, the Extra stalls fantastically! You’ll go nose high, flying along fine and then all of a sudden it’ll flip a wing and you’ll be falling out of the sky with the ground above your head. It was so cool. The Push, roll, power technique is supposedly applicable to all aircraft and most unusual situations and it worked really well to solve the problem. The moment you gave it a little push on the control stick it relieves the angle of attack on the wings and breaks the stall. It was insane how well that worked; the only think that kept popping into my mind to compare it to was that scene in Avatar where Jake and his Banshee are falling, he tells it to “shut up and fly straight” and it rights itself straight away, know the one? Same deal with the Extra apparently, give it a tiny push and it’ll settle.

I've always prided myself on my iron stomach during flight and loved every second of the lesson, we did a fair few stalls in different situation; pulled some G’s and got some inversions in. Unfortunately not all members of the group faired so well and did have to reach for the sick bag during their flights.
At the end of the day we had to go home and complete an easy test (I think we all got 100%) on what we’d learnt that day, which completes the theoretical portion of the module, leaving just 2 flights left to complete.

Another early start brought us back to Gateway the next morning and it was straight into the air for our final two lessons. It was an amazing experience and I can see the practical use of upset training but mostly it felt like a reward of all our hard work so far and gave us a chance to play with an outstanding little aircraft. As my stomach had been fine the whole time, my instructor agreed to show me some proper aerobatics at the end of the final session.  I’d always wanted to try tumbling which I’d seen at air-shows before but he showed me a fair few and joked with the ground staff that he was going to try and make me ‘black out’. He did not succeed. We did +7G to -2.5G and I felt completely fine (And sort of proud that I did the most out of all the boys).

Mission objectives:
  • Stalling
  • Usual attitude recovery
  • Startle response – He asked me to update the QNH on my attitude indicator, as I reached forward he flipped the aircraft and let go, telling me to recover. The idea being that the recovery should be quick and become second nature as in real life you may not always get a warning e.g. wake turbulence.
  • Stuck Primary controls – This was really interesting. It was seeing how you could control the aircraft if one of the three primary controls (aileron, elevator, rudder) was jammed. We tried all three out and I found the hardest to work without was the rudder.

At the end of the sessions we were given a certificate for successful completion presented in a frame with a picture and poem, none other than Cpt. John Magee’s ‘Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds….’ My dad’s favourite poem! We also received a memory stick containing the go-pro footage of our entire flight's which is definitely for learning and refreshing purposes and not to be shared on Facebook to make friends jealous back home, ahem...

After that fun interlude, it’s now on to the Seminole and the home stretch of our time in Arizona!